Thursday, October 1, 2015

On twenty years of marriage

Twenty years ago last week Michelle and I started the amazing journey of marriage together. Just a few years prior to that grand day we had met on a blind date through a mutual friend. Now many years later we are at a beginning again of sorts as we are stepping into life together as empty nesters since our only child has now moved off to college. It is very appropriate in a way to have this anniversary and the transition to a new life together in the same year.

These many years have been amazing and full of adventures, joy, heartache, togetherness, challenges learning and most of all love.

I can remember clearly in the years leading prior to meeting Michelle wondering if I would ever meet someone that I would marry and spend the rest of my life with. There were times when I thought it would never happen. That simple blind date led me to a person that I had been praying and hoping for all my life. 

I relish my time with Michelle. She is the perfect spouse, mother and friend. She believes in me when I am at my end. She loves me in the good times and in the bad times. She smiles on, laughs and stays positive when others would turn the other way and give up.

I read the other day that 41% of all 1st marriages end in divorce and to me that is tragic. Marry the right person to start and then stick together as partners no matter what life will throw at you. The key is having faith in God and faith in each other. With these two things combined the result is always a win in the end. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hyperconnected and still alone

The way we connect to information and to each other has been revolutionized over the last several years. This has come about thanks to the advance of mobile communication devices and social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Blogger, Periscope and on and on. 

We are socially connected more than ever before in history with our fancy devices fundamentally changing the way we communicate. The sad part is that social automation and other technologies are in many cases not bringing people together. For many, it is instead creating an inverse effect with possible “friends” in the thousands but in reality no real relationships.

I am a man. You may be one as well. As men, we are especially at risk to fall into the trap of loneliness and isolation. We are manly men and we are not expected to ever express feelings, show pain or step away from our role of responsibility leading our family from the front into the battles of life. Sure times have changed to soften much of this for many but the reality is that most of us are just hard wired to be closed emotionally and to press on no matter what we are facing.

The results can be devastating as men struggle and find unhealthy outlets for their disconnected loneliness. Emotional detachment from family, affairs, addictions to porn, and alcohol abuse are just a few of the unfortunate outcomes.

Even less talked about is suicide rates among men. Men commit suicide at a rate that is 4X higher than woman and in the US men account for 79% of all suicides. These numbers do not include unreported attempts.

As men what can we learn from all of this? I believe that we must recognize the importance of having a male confidant in our lives. A person that we can have a meaningful and still masculine relationship that allows for openness and sharing. It can be uncomfortable to have truly deep and meaningful conversations with another dude and that is why for most of us this needs to happen while also doing manly things. 

Think being in the outdoors hiking, hunting, chopping wood, building something or just plain doing manly stuff. We are not sit around a smelly candle sipping wine kind of people.

Men let me challenge you to reach out and make a change. You just might save a marriage or even save a life. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Time to let go

August was big for us as our only child left the house to begin a new life in college. This event had loomed for a long time and to be honest I was not really sure of what would be my reaction.

Excitement? Depression? Fear?

The possibilities were broad and fortunately the realities turned out to be mostly positive for us. His excitement was completely contagious and I could not help but smile on my way home thinking of him back in the dorm room with this great next big step into adulthood. He said he could not wait to ask friends over to see his “place.”

The reality is that moving on and growing up is a good thing and being human there is nothing wrong with parents experiencing all the stages of separation that is expected. You name an emotion and I have most likely felt it over these last several weeks as we prepared for the big day.

I have tried my best all these years to be the father to my son that I never experienced as a child. I tried to be there for him when he needed me. I tried to be a loving example as a husband so that he would have a model to follow in his own marriage. I tried to love God and show how to have a foundation of faith. I tried to spend time serving others to show life is not all about me. I tried to encourage him to be independent as a thinker and a person so that he could make choices establish his own beliefs. I tried to teach him about money by avoiding extravagances and keeping out of debt.

Most of all---I tried

Looking back I know there were many things in my list of perfect parenting where I failed. There are things I wish I had done more and things I has wish I had done less.


Now is not the time to look in the past or dwell on the should haves. Instead now is the time to look forward to the future and have confidence that we set a solid foundation that will serve him through his future failures and success.

I know his mother and I will miss him but the future of seeing the ongoing result of all these years as he discovers his own way is even more exciting to ponder.

He just better not forget that the door is always open for a return to the Copeland house and I am sure I will still slip him a twenty when mom is not looking.

Good luck son! 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The time is almost here.

In just a few weeks our son will be off to college and Michelle and I will make the transition to being empty nester parents.

Excited? Yes! Nervous? Absolutely!

Every parent since the dawn a parenthood has experienced the angst of this time. After years of family fun with events to attend, friends to host and plans to make soon the house will go silent and our child will be completely on his own. Only in our imagination will we know each day how he is getting along.

Thankfully the business of life for a young person through the last couple of years before college in a way help you prepare for the final transition. It seems Michelle and I have had a lot of time these last few months to see what is going to be like when it is just to two of us.

I have been pretty reflective these last few months thinking back to my effectiveness as a parent and the choices we have made over the years. Yes I have some regrets but overall I know we did our best and made many family first choices that I can only pray will pay dividends in his life as he moves off into his new stage of life as a Sooner.

College we welcome you and the many new experiences good and bad that are on the way soon for Conner.

I know the future is going to be and exciting adventure. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Finding Joy at Work

Joy and work

These are two words that for the vast majority of us do not go together. 

Most of us see work simply as that space in between the weekends that serves to provide us medical care, vacations and money to pay the bills. Often, this leads to the Sunday night dread as another new week of despair looms ahead. Is this you?

Let’s face it. Most jobs were never intended to be fun all the time. That is why it is called going to work as opposed to going to fun. 

Nonetheless, there are ways we can make the most of everyday and in the process set ourselves apart from the masses living their work life in despair.

Know your purpose

Why do we work? Is it simply a means to an end so that bills can be paid and away from work fun can be had? That mindset may work for a time but in the long run it leads to drudgery. What if instead we first defined our life purpose and then next applied it to our jobs? My purpose statement is simple:

“To serve God, serve my family and serve those around. I strive to help others have success so that in turn I will experience success”

Your life purpose is critical as it should set the direction for every decision you make about your day and you attitude towards those around you. Feel like you are floundering? You might just need a little direction to move forward. 

Find an attitude mentor

Just about every work group has one these people. You know, the person that no matter what seems to come into work peppy and ready to get busy. These folks jump at the chance to tackle the extra project and take big changes in stride.

This is a person you will want in your inner circle. Ask, “Tell me, what motivates you to be so positive at work?”  I think you might be surprised at the answer and you will find great insight. If open to it, tell this person you are looking for an attitude mentor that will give you nudge from time to time when you may be showing negativity about the workplace.

Show up looking sharp and with a smile

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

I love this famous quote from Martin Luther King as it demonstrates that any job can be filled with satisfaction if you give it your all. Every day I see people working with grim faces while also looking frumpy. I have a secret strategy on my days I know are going to be the most challenging. On these days, I make a point to put on my sweetest shirt and best slacks. I also use a little personal pep talk in the car to slap a smile on that will carry me into the building. 

These little things may sound silly but they do make a huge difference to convince yourself that everything is going to be okay. Oh and on the really over the top days, I make sure to wear a pair of Batman undies that I have had for many years. Sure the day might be stressful but on those days I can have a sly grin on my face knowing that underneath—I am Batman.  

Believe in your future

So your job sucks. That is the time to understand most things in life that suck are temporary. Believe in your abilities, your potential for growth and continue to work with gusto. You might stand out from the crowd by doing so and find yourself up for promotion in the future. If not, then keep making the most of what your have now while also working to find something else that will satisfy you. The key is to not give up hope and to keep growing into the life you were born to have. Give everyday your best and the best will find you. 

Joy and work—I hope you find the best of both. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hello 2015

It feels good to have 2014 behind me and time this week to reflect on the past and the days to come. It has been my practice for many years to use the last week of the year for goal setting and planning.

Life is better with a plan for the future that when examined closely fills you with excitement.

Very few people have powerful goals in writing and even fewer have these detailed in such a way as to serve as leverage for success. To write them down and not immediately execute with action to make them happen is a complete formula for failure.

I know this as fact as each goal I do not meet each year is the result of a poorly executed plan. Time, failure and success are great teachers. I have learned to chunk my plans into categories. They are:
  • Faith
  • Family
  • Finances
  • Health
  • Career
  • Service
  • Misc

My goals within each of these categories are as specific as I can make them. They are not a write down once a year, tuck away and go kind of thing. They are an in my face challenge me every day kind thing.

One other thing I do each year is to chose a theme phase and challenge word. 2015 for example is “the year of the empty nest” and my challenge word is “explore”.

I would love to tell you that every year I master these goals and look back with nothing but complete satisfaction but that is not true. What I can say is that I know without a doubt that in the battle that is the daily grind of life I am far better prepared and excited when I am truly working my plan. It is indeed the foundation most of my success.

Do you have a plan? If not, now is the time to get alone and spend some real time in self-reflection. Write a vision for what you want not just at the end of the year but for tomorrow, next week and so on.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Goodbye 2014

As years go, 2014 is going to go down as one of my most challenging yet. It began in early January as I stepped on the scale and came to the stark realization that my weight was right at the tip of my limit. The preceding months had been difficult with work experiencing a time of layoffs again and my health being impacted by pain in my knees which in turn had led to a complete lack of exercise and a visit to the cellar off my internal motivation.

Looking ahead to the New Year, I knew I had to take control of my life and not let another 12 months go by that I would look into the mirror with regret. I had great optimism knowing the year was set to be full of several wonderful milestones. This was the year we were going to be debt free, experience high adventure in Canada, see the start of Conner’s senior year and begin the transition to being an empty nester. I had no idea at the time that it would bring another layoff at work and a family crisis at a level we had never experienced before.

Taking control of my health again by eating properly was the first step to my comeback. Soon the weight was coming off and amazingly my knees were pain free. By early spring I had experienced a 20 plus pound weight loss and we had met our goal of being 100% debt free.

There was some positive momentum for sure.

Summer was amazing as I traveled to Canada with the Scouts and thanks in part to my renewed health had a terrific time canoeing over 90 miles with my son and some and a great group of Scouts. We had an adventure of a lifetime and every minute was a treasure.

I quickly appreciated the debt free life as out of nowhere there was several thousand dollars in car expenses for unexpected repairs. Frustrating for sure but then again still cheaper than car payments.

Fall approached and so did the start of Conner’s Sr. year. I had been kidding for several months that I would cry at every event since I would know each was a “last” but thankfully that did not happen and instead Michelle and I soaked it all in savoring every moment.

Then the year ended with unexpected stress. Even though we had experienced a layoff as recently as March, the company decided it was needed again with an even bigger cut. I have been through these many times and they are never easy. Thanks to being debt free, knowledge that I would have a generous severance package and knowing all my big father/son trips were now in the past, my stress level for this round was high but not as high as in 2013.

Well that was until the accident. While on a school leadership retreat, my son had an accident falling off a cliff. The news was terrifying as we learned he had shattered one vertebra, fractured another, broken a bone in his foot, broken his jaw and had slightly collapsed a lung. He was very lucky to be alive.

A hospitalized child along with a layoff in progress made for a stress cocktail that was incredibly hard to digest. However, the accident also brought forth an outpouring of love and support from people that was overwhelming and impossible to describe. Family, friends and even strangers shared prayers and kindness that uplifted our family in this time of great need. Our family strength and faith and God also rose to bind us through this situation.

Together we have pressed on and as the year comes to a close I can say we are stronger, closer and more appreciative of this world than ever before. Triumphs help us see the rewards of our faithfulness while tragedies amazingly do the same as well. I am reminded again that you really cannot appreciate one without also experiencing the other.

It looks like 2015 is going to be a watershed year as well. What will it bring? I do not have any idea. What I do know without a doubt is that I will remember that with faith, love, family and friends we will face every challenge. It is going to be a great year for sure.